State of the Writer: Changing Habits

I’ve been about 3 weeks now into some of the small changes to my habits, in preparation to help me eventually write full time.  There were two I’ve been primarily working on, since they have been the most painful ones:

Tracking word count

When most writers talk about tracking word count, they have a daily word count goal, like 2,000 words. They are tracking the word count to show that they are making their goals.  But, for me, word count’s had a real bad history.

You see, I ran short on my last novel.  Not a little bit short, but a lot short.  Word count put a magnifying glass up close on that and kept reminding me of it.  Tracking word count also reminded me of when that word count snagged me up, and I would produce only 100 words.

But I’ve also realized I needed something that told me I was making progress — a sign of success –, and unfortunately, that usually means numbers (the infamous metrics).  So, instead of word count goals, I’ve just been noting word count for various projects, including the blog posts.  I did it in Evernote because I didn’t want to see the running total.

I kept thinking through the month seeing the word counts for the various projects that it wasn’t a lot of writing because I knew how much I was doing, and I knew there was some days where I didn’t do anything at all.  Then I totaled it up about midmonth for a report to the critique group, and it was “Holy cow!  I did that much?”  It all adds up.

As of today, I have 21,014 words written for September.

Time Management: Scheduling

I’ve also spent the last 3 weeks trying out a new time management system, one that’s more customized to me.  The reason is that it’s best to get my act together on it now and not go into failure mode when I am able to write full time.

To do lists, the most commonly recommended thing by the gurus, have never worked for me.  My job is too chaotic for them, as this week demonstrated.  I had an emergency that sucked up 2 days, and everything that I was supposed to do those days had to be pushed back.  AndI already had too much to do to start with.

I also saw one of my warning of failure points pop up — if my email goes belong the screen (a 20 inch screen), the system is in danger of failing.  Below the screen means that I’m not able to stay on top of the influx of stuff coming in, and I get overwhelmed.

This has been one of the places where the other systems have all failed.

This time it didn’t.

I’ve been dragging emails where I need to do something onto the Outlook calendar.  It’s easy to move around, and I only see what I need to for that day — not a lengthy list of things that only reminds me that I have way too much to do.

Once the crisis ended, I focused just on getting the email above the bottom of the screen.  The first step was to delete all the emails from the crisis (those started mating and breeding).  Then I hunted for ones where I needed to do something and dragged them onto the calendar.  I ended up doing this for about 2 days because I couldn’t get enough cleared fast enough before the email edged back to the bottom again.

One of the biggest steps for me in this was deciding that I needed to do this, and when I did, instead of jumping on and trying to finish all the things that had been pushed back.  The full email screen would have kept reminding me how much I had to do, much like the to do list, and I would have gotten to the end of the week and left feeling like I was never going to get everything done.

Projects in progress now:

A science fiction short story for an anthology.  Should be finished with that one early next week, or this weekend.

A mystery novel, which, of course, is ongoing.  The novel is set in Central California, with all the pretty beaches and a murder. No clue who the victim is, who did it, or for that matter, when it happened.  The life of a pantser.